It comes as no surprise to me that a male nanny is up for the childcare industry’s biggest gong. Like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jemima Khan and Britney Spears, who all have given birth to boys and pretty quickly hired mannies, I’ve known that males make the best nannies for years.
No disrespect to the many girls (or, as we must call them, “childcare providers”) who have cried themselves to sleep in my spare bedroom and endured the many privations of my home (including sharing a nursery bathroom with boys who rarely point Percy at the porcelain). I still exchange Christmas cards with some (I had 19 nannies and au pairs including a Moldovan housekeeper-cum-prostitute before I stopping counting) and am Facebook friends with others but the truth is, I haven’t even considered hiring a girl for years. I am unashamedly the opposite of a friendly, inclusive employer.
The only sort of person I usually consider is a twentysomething Aussie or Kiwi male. Kris Pohl, 46, the man who is up for Professional Nanny of the Year, and who lives in Kentish Town but cares for a toddler in Wandsworth, is actually from Michigan. I’ve had a brilliant British manny called Guy for a few weeks and I am therefore prepared to accept that despite being a middle-aged Midwesterner rather than young and Antipodean, Kris Pohl is worth his weight in gold.
“When I first started 20 years ago there was no such thing as a ‘manny’,” says Kris. “But I’m very proud and confident of my role and to be able to say at a north London dinner party, ‘I’m a nanny’. (Like actresses who take themselves very seriously and call themselves “actors”, career mannies such as Kris prefer to be called nannies.) “Being one of the very few can be ego-affirming.”
You tell em, Kris! It’s time more parents realised what a fantastic job men do looking after children, and it’s about time more young men considered becoming mannies. Only five per cent of 115,000 full-time nannies are mannies and trust me – it’s not enough.
It’s not just about providing “strong male role models” and all that, young men just get on with it without complaint or atmosphere and without any reference to their moon cycles at all, and more mothers are taking note. As childcare agencies My Big Buddy.com and www.tinies.com confirm, demand for mannies is outstripping supply, with parents even seeking mannies for daughters as well as sons.
For my part, I absolutely love the fact that I have under my command an unflappable, energetic young man who replies “no wucking furries, mate” when I ask him to take the boys to buy trainers at Westfield, followed by tennis and swimming, and who then happily submits to hours of “rough-housing” in the garden. You can ask mannies to do anything, and the bliss of it is they just do, without giving the dark look that says, “Taking the dog out is not in my job description”.
The more you ask of mannies, the happier they appear to be. OK, they may not wipe the milk bottle’s bottom before replacing it in the fridge but who cares? When I come home the house may not be in 100 per cent apple-pie order but my children are smiling. My last incumbent, Guy, never baulked at anything: he did dinner parties and dog-walks, shopping, football. In fact, after only a week in my house, my youngest son was calling him Mummy, and had appeared to have forgotten I ever existed.
Rachel Johnson is editor of The Lady magazine.